Improving Policing: 911 Calls Relating To Mental Illness
Mental health crises seem to be in the news with greater frequency of late. Sometimes incidents that don’t necessarily involve illegal behavior, but that alarm families and communities, lead to 911 calls for help. That all too often results in tragedy, as the situations escalate, culminating with police shootings. According to the Washington Post, over 1,000 people died as a result of police shootings in 2020, and roughly one-fourth of them were related to mental health episodes. Surely, we can do better!
Crisis Intervention Training
Across the nation, police departments recognize that they need to find a way to deal with these kinds of situations more strategically in order to have better outcomes. Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) may offer a path forward. A collaborative effort involving police and mental health services, the goal is to reduce the use of lethal and non-lethal force and arrests, while directing necessary services to people who need them.
The initial goal is to increase officer empathy and the use of de-escalation tactics. A 40-hour training program allows officers a taste of a schizophrenic experience by playing recordings of voices similar to those that an affected individual might hear. There is also an opportunity for officers to better understand the difficulties associated with maintaining medication routines. Partnerships designed to mitigate homelessness and addiction, as well as to fortify screening and treatment, give programs like this legs.
Officers, too, are given strategies to address their own mental and emotional stress. The pandemic, among other issues, has created increasingly difficult demands with which officers must deal, creating a heavy emotional burden for them. Programs like this have been shown to improve attitudes and knowledge among officers, resulting in safer, more satisfying outcomes all around.
Nevada’s CIT Efforts
Here in Nevada, CIT training has been available for police officers since 2003. Thousands of officers have gone through the certification, which expanded in 2016 to include corrections officers. This is particularly important, as an estimated one-third of the inmate population has been diagnosed with a mental illness requiring psychotropic medications. The results are promising:
- Improved handling of mental health crises;
- Fewer use-of-force incidents;
- More mental-health referrals;
- Increased community confidence;
- Diversion from criminal systems to health systems;
- Higher rates of treatment.
Getting it Right
At Lobo Law, we know that mental health issues impact families and communities every day. If you are anxious because law enforcement reactions are failing to address legitimate health concerns appropriately, and justice is being trampled on in the mix, our experienced Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys can help. Schedule a confidential consultation today.